The Mail Carrier

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Q: I am a mail carrier.  Yesterday, I was making my rounds on a drive-out mail route.  I got out of my car and walked toward a house.  A dog was lying on the lawn, unleashed.  I immediately turned back, to walk back to my vehicle, intending to skip this mail delivery.

The dog proceeded to run at me.  I ran the short remaining distance, grabbed the car and flung my right leg through the open window.  Instead of jumping through, I jammed my finger on the outside of the doorframe.  Afterwards, I felt pain in my finger.  It is stiff, and it aches.

A: In many localities, a so-called leash law provides that a person who owns, possesses or controls a dog shall not permit it to be in a public place, or in any open or unfenced area abutting on a public place, unless the dog is effectively restrained by a leash or other restraint not more than, say, six feet long.

Despite any leash law, in New York, when harm is caused by a domestic animal, its owner’s liability is determined solely by application of a rule of strict liability based solely on whether or not the owner knew or should have known of the animal’s vicious propensities.

No negligence cause of action survives this rule.  At present in New York, a violation of the local leash law is irrelevant here, because such a violation is merely peripheral evidence of negligence, and the courts do not engage in a negligence analysis prior to imposing liability in this kind of case.  Your case will rise or fall based purely upon knowledge of vicious propensities.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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